I’ve not told anyone this before.
That’s how most stories start when you love an alcoholic.
Guilt, shame, fear of being judged, afraid to face the truth, we keep everything secret.
In 1997 I met my love.
The most charming, witty gentleman that I had ever met.
He was my one in a million and I was his cherub.
10 years, 2 beautiful children later,
We were a family with an illness, only we didn’t know it.
One night my husband Chris didn’t come home which was completely out of character. I was awake all night with worry. In the morning I got a call from a London hospital. That’s the moment I knew I needed to face the truth – he was an alcoholic. I wasn’t making the problem up in my head.
Life is chaotic. Disrupted routines at mealtimes and bedtime, sleeping issues, always late for school, an absent father in the same house but behind a closed door, and me a frazzled mother – never taking care of myself. All of the signs are there – the damage.
My smile is gone.
Chris and I plan a weekend away, just the two of us – we need it. On the first night, we are eating in one of those beautiful Spanish town squares, the kind with outdoor dining, umbrellas and tables all around. At the end of dinner, standing to leave. Chris grabs his wine.
Just once leave something in the glass.
He tips it back gulps it down every drop emptied, along with my hope.
But then, he loses his balance, falling and taking out three tables all in one swoop. Everything on the ground, including Chris with blood coming from his head.
I can feel the burning redness in my face.
Not here not now. Oh god, I want to run.
With the help of 3 waiters, we manage to get him on his feet. food, plates, glasses and bottles scattered on the ground.
Everyone is staring. They think his incoherence was from the fall. But I know the truth.
And I know what they all are thinking of me.
Life rapidly spiralled out of control.
I want to break free but I don’t want to give up on him.
He fell again but this time at home.
I line up all the wine bottles from the weekend on the kitchen counter. I don’t want to count.
Chris agrees to go to rehab.
Thank God. He does love us.
When he comes home we drink tea together.
Our first cup of tea together in 11 years.
We are going to be ok. He’s fine. Our family is fine.
After the 3rd rehab session, He looks amazing. And has discovered painting. We can do this. We will be just fine.
The 4th rehab session, I am driving to see him, on Christmas Eve, leaving the kids behind with friends. I know – the kids can’t see his behaviour anymore. They can’t see me so broken.
For 10 years I stay, because I love him and hold onto the hope that he will get better.
He loves us so much how can I take the kids away. It will kill him.
The next time…I can always feel it coming.
This time I have the crisis team in my house.
I tell my mother in law that I know she had to do what was best for her son to take care of him I have to do what was best for my children and protect them and live a normal life.
It was at that moment I decide to leave.
And I lose my English family.
But even after I leave him,
I continue to get drawn into The chaos. I feel empty with nothing left to give.
I just want it all to be over. I’m exhausted. I have nothing left to give.
One day it will kill him. Oh god I wish he was dead.
That’s when I stopped talking,
In May of 2017, I get a call from his sister. his heart stopped.
Chris is dead.
The days, weeks and months that follow are filled with Emptiness. Guilt. Anger. I am alone, no longer a single parent. I am a solo parent. Each month rolls into the next.
One day a friend called
“Put your crown back on”, she says. he wouldn’t want you to live this way.
The tears came. The pain. The years of hurt. And the guilt.
Chris is gone.
Our marriage is gone.
Happily ever after is gone.
But I am still here.
And that’s when it hits me.
iI wasn’t Chris’ alcoholism that took my smile
It was me.
Just as I was the one who decided to stop smiling, I could be the one to find my smile again and live a different life.
After 15 painful years I finally got it. An important lesson that has transformed my life and given me my smile back. It is only when we dare to break free we allow ourselves to blossom.
When we dare to break free we allow ourselves to blossom.
In the world today we are so busy breaking free from the things that hold us back is difficult.
It has taken a global pandemic to get us to slow down and rethink how we live.
597,583 deaths brought the world to a stop.
But there is another growing pandemic. One that we don’t talk about.
Shame and guilt brush it under the carpet. Yet it kills 2.8 Million per year. Alcoholism
2.8 million times the number of people in the family – the ripple effect – that is the true impact.
Alcoholism is sneaky.
Its effects are mild in the beginning – for years – so mild that you question if its all in your head. Maybe he doesn’t have a problem.
and you don’t really see the impact on children’s behaviour – not usually until they are adults.
My story isn’t unique. Sadly, it’s far too common.
When you love an alcoholic, life can become consumed with controlling your loved one’s drinking and helping them stop. Never giving up on them. As the alcoholism progresses, so does the family illness.
But we don’t talk about it.
As a mom, a wife who has lived to stand here and tell you this story,
we need to talk about it.
If you have a story like mine one that you are too afraid to tell, I challenge you to join me, disrupt the patterns of unhealthy behaviour and create new strong healthy ones. Together we can blossom and fill the world with colour if we take these 3 actions:
The first action we can take is Let down the walls
Let people in.
Every day I witnessed hot alcohol was slowly killing Chris, and the agony of his the battle. I saw everything. I remember everything. I felt everything. Instead of putting in place healthy boundaries, the more I saw the more I built up walls to protect myself. I cut myself off. Just me in my own head.
Many years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a note. It was around the time when things were just starting to get difficult, the early stages The note said “Everything of beauty has a crack in it and that is how the light gets in”.
By letting down the waIls, I could let the light in, let air in, breathe, creating the conditions for healing for transformation.
We don’t have to face these challenges alone. Don’t let shame or guilt silence you. We can all reach out for help. Each time you do reach out, a bit of wall will come down, and you will feel the light.
The second action we can take is to Open up to Joy
Look for joy.
Joy is everywhere, in our lives, every day. This painting hangs in my home and has done since 2003. I always loved it, but it wasn’t until after Chris died that I saw the painting through different eyes, I discovered its meaning and realised what it symbolised. New beginnings.
We can all look for joy, every day. Consciously look for things that make you smile. Make a list of things that make you happy. Do one of those things every day.
And the third action we can take is to Interrupt the silence
I didn’t want to talk about it. Chris and I didn’t talk for years. I was given the gift of that one last conversation with Chris. A week before he died. We spoke. He was listening and I was able to express why I had shut him off all those years. He was sorry and said that no one was more open to my story than him. And that is why I am here. We know how much talking can help.
When we start to talk, the guilt, the shame, the anger, and the misconceptions about alcoholism, it will all go away. Through sharing knowledge, we can create an understanding of alcoholism and its impact at home in the family, we can break the stigma, it doesn’t have to be a secret anymore. Talk, get it out there. and help people understand the impact of alcoholism because that’s how we’ll gain more support.
When we dare to break free we allow ourselves to blossom.
If you are feeling that knot in your stomach, or in your heart, it’s ok. It’s ok to give yourself permission to let it go. If you have a story like mine perhaps one that you’ve never told anyone about, I challenge you to dare to break free… let down the walls, open up to joy, interrupt the silence and allow yourself to blossom. Put your crown back on, find your smile and fill your life with joy once again.